India shrinks ‘creamy layer’ to expand affirmative action

October 3rd, 2008 - 8:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Oct 3 (IANS) As elections to the Lok Sabha and six state assemblies draw nearer, India’s cabinet Friday sharply hiked the income limit to ascertain the “creamy layer” among other backward castes (OBCs) to make more people from socially deprived groups eligible for affirmative action.Families earning more than Rs.450,000 per annum will now be considered “creamy layer” among OBCs, up from Rs.250,000 earlier, as per the decision taken by a meeting of the union cabinet Friday, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“This would be in keeping with economic changes which have taken place since February 2004, when the income criteria was last revised,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said after the meeting.

Prior to that, the ceiling was fixed at Rs.100,000. Children from families earning more than this amount were ineligible for reservation in centrally-run institutions of higher education.

The government has no estimate as yet on how many people can benefit from the latest move, but some estimates suggest that close to 80 percent of OBCs will now be eligible for affirmative action.

“All I can say is the new revision will ensure that more OBC aspirants will benefit from the reservation policy and get admission into government-run educational institutions,” a senior official in the human resource development ministry said.

The decision came in the wake of the Supreme Court asking the government to fill vacant seats in institutions of higher education set aside for OBCs with general category students, as these could not be filled up.

Twenty-seven percent of the seats in institutions of higher education have been earmarked for OBC students.

In June this year, the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) had also recommended an upward revision in the income ceiling.

The recommendations were sent to the government only on June 30, by which time the process to start the ongoing academic session had already begun.

The genesis of reservations for OBCs is in the legislation drafted by the human resource development ministry and passed by parliament in January 2007, called the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act.

Soon after, the apex court stayed the enforcement of this act till such time the government excludes the “creamy layer” or the economically advanced people from its ambit.

The original ceiling of Rs.100,000 per annum was recommended by the ministry of social justice and empowerment in and adopted by the cabinet. This was later revised to Rs.250,000 per annum and now stands at Rs.450,000.

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